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Benton, IL

Coal Miners Seeking Safer Workplace

Coal Miners Seeking Safer Workplace
By: Arnold Wyrick

Benton, IL - The controversy swirling around a Southern Illinois coal mine continues as another company drilling for methane gas in the area moves forward.

Representatives with Grayson Hill Energy meet with The Illinois Department of Mine and Minerals, along with some coal miners from Liberty Mine on Monday morning.

During the three and half hour hearing, and several power point presentations, some coal miners still weren't satisfied that it was good business for both companies to be working side by side underground.

Grayson is seeking to tap into the left over methane gas left behind from the old Brushy Mine years ago.  The problem with their operation is that it sits right next to the current mining operations underway by Liberty Mine.

The only thing separating the two underground is the seals put in place when things shutdown at Old Brushy.

"There isn't anyone in here who can guarantee the integrity of those seals.  You have roof falls around them, and water can get in there.  That's why at the mine we have the fire boss that goes around and checks those seals," says Butch Oldham of United Mine Workers Association.

The Vice-President of Grayson accepted the added monitors and additional requirements placed upon him by the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals.

"To me it's going to be a safer operation," Chris Schimp said.

Some coal miners on hand at the hearing still aren't sure they'll be safe at work.

"The gas business is dangerous, and the coal business is dangerous.  And you blend the two of them together in the same area, it's just another problem that we really didn't need.  And we're not looking forward to dealing with it on a daily basis," says U.M.W.A. President Local#3404 Tom Ellis.

Some of the new requirements placed upon Grayson in order for them to continue drilling for methane gas near Liberty Mine requires the company to install monitors at the seals, and on the drilling rig.  Plus they'll have to gather samples to be tested at the Department of Mines and Minerals.

"We will take the vacuum bottles and we'll bring them here.  And we'll keep track of the methane that's being liberated," says Director Joe Angleton.

"Again this is something new we're pulling from abandoned works, next to active works.  That's never been done in Illinois.  But the methane extraction it will be safer," Schimp said.

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